Licton Springs Is for the Buffleheads

NeighborHuh? explores Seattle neighborhoods you didn’t even know were neighborhoods.

Shaped like a dog sticking its head out of a box, Licton Springs sounds like a made-up neighborhood name in a murder mystery or a soft-core porn movie, but I assure you it’s real.

With very defined borders, Licton Springs is imprisoned by I-5 to the east, 99 to the west, Northgate Way up top, and 85th below. It’s a neighborhood that most people have probably driven around without seeing what’s there, and it would be a fantastic place to commit a heist, since you have quick access to multiple highways. That’s how they did it in the beginning of Heat.

The neighborhood is home to North Seattle College, Oak Tree Cinema, Licton Springs Park, HT Oaktree Market (an Asian grocery store), Mineral Springs Park, Tropicos Breeze (good papusas), Ocean Greens Recreational Marijuana, and Little Amazon Fish and Pets, in case you need a tarantula or a gecko. There used to be an Arby’s there, but it shuttered. Now I have to go all the way to SoDo for a Beef ’n’ Cheddar. Unbelievable.

It’s helpful when neighborhoods have descriptors in their name. Springs is a pretty good second neighborhood name, up there with Flushing Meadows in New York and Marvin Gardens in Monopoly. Make no mistake, though, Licton Springs actually has a spring. The name comes from the Salish word Liq’tid for the reddish mud of the springs, red because of the red iron oxide that bubbles up (science!). If you want to go all out on the neighborhood’s rich history, a 16-page color brochure is available from the Licton Springs Community Council. Then you could correct everything I probably got wrong.

Of note are the actions of one Chuck Pilling, who in the 1930s created a waterfowl habitat in a pond and attracted worldwide attention as the first successful breeder of hooded mergansers, harlequin ducks, and buffleheads. Bufflehead would have been a great name for the neighborhood, or at least a derogatory slur for someone from Licton Springs: “You can’t date him, he’s a goddamn bufflehead.” I’ve already called three of my friends buffleheads this week.

Should you move here? I can’t confirm if any of the springs have magical healing powers, but Licton Springs is a nice little respite between 99 and I-5, assuming you move to the middle of the neighborhood and away from the omnipresent highway noise. You might like it, you might not. It’s not my place to tell you buffleheads where to live.

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